Voices of Our Tomorrow What my experience at Our Tomorrow taught meBy: Lola Sanchez As a recent high school graduate, I’ve had many learning experiences – but, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taught me the most. I’ve seen my peers step up to advocate for themselves and for their shot at an equitable education experience. The pandemic highlighted what we have experienced for a long time – we don’t always have the same chances and our success is often dependent on where we live. My name is Lola Sanchez and I served as the organizing intern for Our Tomorrow during the 2019-2020 school year while a senior at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy. My experience at Our Tomorrow taught me a lot about the value of young people using their collective voice. The pandemic taught us we should never be silent. Youth leaders never skipped a beat in advocating for themselves and their friends during this crisis. They advocated for their education, their mental health while showing empathy towards others in situations more dire than their own. Together, we brainstormed ways to combat the digital divide while acknowledging how our friends whose families have lower incomes are being affected much more. I was honored to help organize Our Tomorrow’s virtual Youth Town Hall on COVID-19 in the spring where more than 40 of us gathered with State Board of Education rep Marisa Perez-Diaz. We talked about the issues we were facing and we brainstormed solutions. More importantly, we had a way for young people to speak directly to a decision-maker. As a result, we felt empowered. As a result, a policymaker was aware — firsthand — of our experiences. This is how we ensure every young person in Bexar County is ready for the future. Editor’s note:The idea of youth voice takes on many forms, including sharing experiences and ideas with policy makers, which many of the young people of Our Tomorrow have done. Youth leaders within the Our Tomorrow network have learned about funding for youth services and are participating in a task force with adults to form recommendations on investments in youth, presented their ideas on sex education to the State Board of Education, and participated in our annual civics fair, Speak Up! Speak Out! However, young people’s experiences and ideas are abundant and we at Our Tomorrow and UP Partnership wanted to create a space for them to share their thoughts on current issues they face and those they see on the news. Voices of Our Tomorrow is a series of blogs that we will share every Thursday that highlight these experiences, thoughts and opinions.These thoughts and opinions do not expressly represent the thoughts of UP Partnership, its leadership team or board of directors.